INDIANA — Governor Eric J. Holcomb announced that police agencies throughout the state will be increasing patrols this back-to-school season to protect students going to and from school. Starting as early as next week, officers will be out in greater numbers watching for stop-arm violations and motorists driving dangerously at school bus stops and in school zones.
This is all part of the state’s Stop Arm Violation Enforcement program, or SAVE blitz, which is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
“We’re entering the back-to-school season in Indiana, which means motorists need to watch for buses and drive cautiously at all times,” Gov. Holcomb said. “School buses remain the safest mode of transportation for students, and we need everyone’s help to keep it that way.”
More than 200 police agencies will be participating in this year’s SAVE blitz, which is scheduled to last until mid-September. As part of the effort, departments will be working with bus drivers and school transportation officials to identify areas where the high-visibility patrols are needed the most.
In the spring, officers who participated in the last enforcement campaign issued more than 5,600 citations and 1,700 warnings. Of the citations, 251 were for stop-arm violations, 309 for texting while driving and an alarming amount, nearly 1,900, were for speeding.
“Speeding around a bus or ignoring its stop-arm is not only illegal, but it’s also reckless,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. “It puts everyone on the road at risk, including children, and has to stop – too much is at stake.”
In Indiana, it’s against the law for motorists to pass a bus that’s stopped and has its red lights flashing and stop-arm extended. This applies to all roads, with one exception. Motorists who are on a highway that is divided by a barrier, such as a cable barrier, concrete wall, or grassy median, are required to stop only if they are traveling in the same direction as the school bus.
“If you’re driving and see those yellow flashing lights, slow down and be prepared to stop,” said Robert Duckworth, ICJI Traffic Safety Director. “Don’t try to beat the bus. Give yourself plenty of time or just arrive late. Rest assured, it’s better than getting a ticket or possibly taking someone’s life.”
According to NHTSA, the greatest risk to a student isn’t riding a bus but approaching or leaving one, so drivers are encouraged to slow down, put away the distractions, and watch for buses at all times. It’s also important for parents to talk to their children about school bus safety.
Children should always look both ways before crossing the street and arrive at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. At the bus stop, they should stay six feet (five steps) away from the curb, and always wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and for the bus driver’s signal to board. Remind children that the bus stop is not a place to run or play.